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Abnormal epithelial homeostasis in the cornea of mice with a destrin deletion

Molecular Vision
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  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Purpose Dstncorn1 mice lack normal destrin expression and develop corneal abnormality shortly after birth such as epithelial hyperplasia and total vascularization. Thus, the mice serve as a model for ocular surface disorders. To determine the nature of epithelial defects, we examined whether epithelial homeostasis is altered in these corneas. Methods Dstncorn1 mice were crossed with ubiquitous GFP mice to generate a double homozygous line, GFP-Dstncorn1, and cell movements were determined by whole-mount histology and in vivo time-lapse microscopy, tracking the change of epithelial GFP patterns. Rates of cell division and the presence of label-retaining cells (LRCs) were determined by systemic bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU). Epithelial expression of keratins 8, 12, and 15, and MUC5AC were determined by whole-mount immunofluorescence. Results Epithelial cells in an adult GFP-Dstncorn1 cornea were generally immobile with no sign of directed movement for the entire life of the animal. These cells were not senescent because more than 70% of basal epithelial cells incorporated BrdU over a 24 h period. LRCs were widely distributed throughout a GFP-Dstncorn1 cornea. The epithelium of a GFP-Dstncorn1 cornea contained a mixed population of cells with a corneal and a conjunctival phenotype as judged by the expression of keratins and MUC5AC. Conclusions Epithelial cells of an adult GFP-Dstncorn1 cornea are generally stationary, mitotically active, and contain LRCs, indicating that the epithelium is self-sustained, which in turn suggests that epithelial stem cells are present within the cornea. Epithelial homeostasis of adult GFP-Dstncorn1 corneas is abnormal, mimicking that of a normal conjunctiva or a pathological, conjunctivalized cornea.

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